Places of worship in Michigan heighten security after 'target' list found in Dearborn Heights

Man finds map with addresses circled, 'target' written

CANTON, Mich. – Police have confirmed threats against three houses of worship across the state after a Dearborn Heights man found a map with addresses circled and the word "target" on it.

A Grand Rapids church closed after being notified that it was included on the list of targets. Police were on patrol in Canton Tuesday night to help attendees at the Masjid Bilal feel safer.

The threat originated in Dearborn Heights when a resident found a bag in his backyard with a handgun and the map inside.

The Masjid Bilal is fairly new and doesn't have much security. Those gathering for prayers Tuesday said the mosque was on the threat list, so they welcomed the extra police presence.

Prayer services are held at Masjit Bilal every night. The blue and white blinking lights of a Canton police cruiser lit up the chilly night as mosque members gathered.

Word reached the mosque Monday night that it and two churches -- one in Dearborn and the other in Grand Rapids -- had been listed in the threat.

"The resident had found a bag, which was in his bushes, which was odd," Lt. Pat Merill, a Grad Rapids police spokesman, said. "Inside he found a bag. Along with the weapon, we found a map with some strange writing on it, so he ended up calling the Grand Rapids Police Department, because one of the locations on the map was circled inside the city limits."

Merrill said the gun and the map were found inside a toiletry bag.

The Westminster Presbyterian Church closed its doors Tuesday after being informed about the list. The church, food pantry and child center were all closed.

"The maps had circles around them and the words, 'Threat,'" Merrill said.

The FBI and several police agencies are working together on the investigation, and out of an abundance of caution, they put everyone on alert. But so far they have no information on who the gun belongs to or whether there are any suspects.

So far, police said they're found no credible threat.

Statement from Dearborn Heights police

The Dearborn Heights Police Department released the following statement about the investigation:

"The Dearborn Heights Police Department is conducting a joint investigation with the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies related to the discovery of an abandoned firearm along with several documents, recently recovered by Dearborn Heights Police Officers.

The discovery of these items has created concerns involving several Michigan houses of worship. All of the religious organizations, none of which were located within the City of Dearborn Heights, that have been affected by this discovery have been notified along with their local law enforcement agencies out of an abundance of caution. There are no known threats that have been assessed as credible at this time to any churches or houses of worship.

As a pending investigative matter, we have no further comment, however, additional information will be released as it becomes available."


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